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Tofu: The Stubborn Nemesis

I’ve always liked tofu. When I was a toddler our neighbors owned a Chinese restaurant and my favorite food when we went there was the tofu out of the hot & sour soup. Even boiled, mushy, and spicy – I loved it. Delicious!

Hot & Sour soup – my original tofu love

But sadly, in all my years since then I’ve never mastered tofu (or hot & soup either… the ingredients list for those recipes are way over my head at this point, though good recipes/suggestions are welcome). But until lately, whenever I’ve tried to make tofu stirfry in our wok I ended up with squishy broken chunks of flavorless soy product. Anti-appetizing. I’ve tried squeezing it out, using different knifes to cut it up, marinating and not marinating it… I thought it was hopeless.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across the blog Rabbit food For My Bunny Teeth. While her story of weight loss is pretty inspiring, I was really after tasty but easy vegan recipes. And to my delight, Spicy Korean Tacos sounded (and looked!) delicious.

Despite my hesitation, I decided to try it out. We went with normal corn tortillas due to what we could find at our local run-of-the-mill grocery store, instead of cabbage we had lightly sauteed celery, carrots and onions, and I did add a tid bit of spicy szechuan sauce at the very end to add a bit more flavor. Otherwise though, I stayed on point. And by that I mean, I made the tofu exactly as she said. I put the soy sauce, siracha and oil in my cast iron skillet (instead of the wok), cranked it up, and dumped in my squeezed (pre-cubed –  more on that in a sec) extra firm tofu. And you know what? It worked. It seared on that soy sauce flavor. I didn’t need to marinate it, or douse it in tons of oil to get it to crisp up. It just happened. Like magic. With a sprinkle of sesame seeds, they were complete.

I loved it, the boyfriend loved it, all were quite pleased with our not-very-Korean, Korean tacos (I mean, seriously, what about these is Korean specifically really?). I made the filling again the other day to eat on top of quinoa, and even bought the not pre-cubed tofu. Extra-firm block was purchased and I was determined to be able to cut it w/o crumbling. So, I set a plate below with a few paper towels, and a plate on top and then the caste iron on top to put on some heavy pressure. In a few minutes I took it out to cube (with a serrated knife) and TADA! Worked like a charm. I cooked it up just like before and it made a delicious lunch.

My suspicion is that my trusty cast iron skillet was highly underutilized in my tofu cooking processes before and made both the squeezing and the cooking MUCH improved. But that’s just an inkling.

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4 thoughts on “Tofu: The Stubborn Nemesis

  1. I think the Korean-ness they’re missing is kimchi. Which, thanks to your inspiration, is what I’m going to have for dinner.

  2. Perhaps – but you’d have to convince me to venture into Kimchi – that stuff smells super fierce and intimidating to try.

  3. If you want convincing, I’d suggest starting with small quantities, chop it up fine, and make fried rice with it. This recipe was loosely my inspiration for the first time I tried making kimchi fried rice: http://herbivoracious.com/2011/01/kimchi-fried-rice-kimchi-bokkeumbap-recipe.html (though as usual, I didn’t even come close to actually following the instructions)

  4. What were you using to cut tofu before? I’ve never had it crumble on me….

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